Pagan Non-Fiction

What follows is a list of the books related to Paganism, Witchcraft, and Wicca which I consider to be worth reading. Unlike my Pagan Fiction reading list, this is intended to be a selective (not exhaustive) list. I have also included a few books which I don't recommend; however, I generally prefer to give attention to those books I find to have value, rather than bashing the ones I find useless. I have left out some major books on Witchcraft and Paganism, not because I haven't read them, but because I don't find them particularly interesting or relevant to my practice.

I update this list as I read relevant books (and I read constantly), so check back every so often and see what's new.


CATEGORIES:

Foundations of Magick and Witchcraft

Rae Beth, The Wiccan Path
    This book is a really nice intro to paganism, and also has some really lovely descriptions of the nature and meaning of the various Sabbats, which I often turn to when I'm planning a ritual and find myself without ideas. I don't agree with some of her ideas about the divine, and she occasionally puts forward some dubious history.

Janice Broch and Veronica MacLer, Seasonal Dance
    This book is a compilation of (group) rituals for the Sabbats. It has some really beautiful, well-written rituals in it (particularly the dialogues and invocations), which I found really useful when I was in a group that did a lot of ritual drama.

Chas Clifton (Ed.), The Modern Craft Movement: Witchcraft Today, Book One.
    A collection of essays about different aspects of pagan life; it has some nice ones, notably "Being Pagan in a 9-to-5 World".

Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.
    This book is intended for beginners, but that doesn't mean it is watered-down in any way; in fact, it lays a strong foundation for practice. Cunningham presents the basics of Wicca (albeit not strict Gardnerian Wicca) in a clear manner yet without simplifying the complexities of Wiccan practice and belief.

Phyllis Curott, Book of Shadows
    Enjoyable, well-written, and absorbing narrative of how a Manhattan lawyer came to Witchcraft and how it changed her life. (This is a memoir, not a "how-to" book.)

Janet and Stewart Farrar, The Witches' Goddess and The Witches' God
    These two books are nice resources to have around. In each, the first half describes different aspects of the Goddess (or God, obviously depending on which book you have) and gives rituals for invoking them. The second half of each book lists gods or goddesses from around the world. I would caution the reader, however, to use these books as a starting point for your own research rather than believing that they offer the whole picture on any one deity.

Amber K, True Magick
    I have a soft spot in my heart for this book, since it was the first book I ever found on Paganism. It's a friendly, sensible, and well-written (and cheap!) beginner's guide to magick, written from a Pagan perspective. It doesn't just give spells - it explains how magick works and how to use it, so that you can create your own style of magick. I recommend keeping this book around to lend to curious people and newbies, and to remind yourself of the basics of magickal practice.

Deborah Lipp, The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth in the Wiccan Circle
    A very interesting and worthwhile book, albeit with a few flaws. This book is an in-depth examination of the four elements and the structure of Wiccan ritual. It could interest readers on many levels, from "beginner" to "advanced," and I really appreciated its thoroughness and depth. My main caveat is that, as indicated by the subtitle, this book is written from a specifically Wiccan perspective and may be a little frustrating for non-Wiccan Witches and Pagans (like me). Lipp clearly explains her reasoning, and her opinions are generally labelled as such, but I still found the book's attitude toward ritual a little narrow-minded. I've been to many powerful and moving rituals which did not follow the rules laid out in this book. (And don't even get me started on the athame and the chalice.) Nonetheless, this book definitely brings up a lot of questions about why we do ritual the way we do it; and even if you disagree with Lipp about a particular point, her questions and insights are still valid and intriguing. (For further thoughts on this book, check out my old friend honeyb's review on Amazon.com.)

Shekhinah Mountainwater, Ariadne's Thread: A Workbook of Goddess Magic
    This book has some interesting ideas for creating an entirely Goddess-centered and woman-centered worship practice. If you're not really into exclusively woman-oriented magick, you may not find this book useful.

Robin Skelton, The Practice of Witchcraft Today
    A nice introduction to Wicca. The first half is a question-and-answer section, which holds to a traditional Gardnerian view of history ("Wicca predates Christianity," etc.). The second half is a set of simple, beautifully written rituals (the author is a poet) in which the primary emphasis seems to be on the words spoken. I like that he includes other holidays than just the eight Sabbats. Definitely worth looking at for the rituals.

Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill, Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions
    Stories, songs, activities, recipes, and more. This book is so wonderful it almost makes me want to have children! It has tons of practical suggestions. My only criticism would be that the thealogy/ cosmology presented is sometimes too simplistic - but the authors address this problem in the introduction, so they are obviously aware of it, and it's not an easy thing to get around. Whether or not you have kids, this book is a valuable resource for community-building and ritual/party-planning.

Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
    This book is a classic work about modern witchcraft and is one of the books which has really shaped the neopagan movement. Starhawk is a very gifted writer and I find something new in this book every time I look at it. She writes from a very radical feminist and political viewpoint. (I should add that her casual attitude toward historical facts about witchcraft is somewhat alarming; I encourage you to read her historical descriptions as metaphorical rather than literal.)

Laura Wildman (Ed.), Celebrating the Pagan Soul: Our Own Stories of Inspiration and Community
    When I first heard the idea for this book - a sort of "Chicken Soup for the Pagan Soul" - I admit I was skeptical. I thought the idea sounded cheesy and sentimental. I'm happy to report that I was completely wrong. This is a fabulous collection of personal stories, anecdotes, and experiences that run the gamut from sad to silly to cynical to heartwarming, encompassing everything in between. Likewise, the authors include Famous Pagans like Margot Adler and Judy Harrow, but also many unknown or unheard-of writers (a few of whom, I was happy to discover, are acquaintainces or friends of mine!). I enjoyed this book very much, and heartily recommend it.

Robin Wood, When, Why... If
    This book is an in-depth look at ethics for Witches and Pagans, divided into topics such as "Help," "Harm," and "Sex". The author addresses the reader in a friendly, folksy style, which at times got a little too folksy for my taste. The exercises the author provides at the end of each chapter are the best part of the book - they are questions designed to get you thinking about your own ethics and help you become more self-aware.

Advanced Practice of Magick and Witchcraft

Chas Clifton (Ed.), Modern Rites of Passage: Witchcraft Today, Book Two
    Interesting articles which explore concepts of Pagan community in some depth. I particularly liked "Working with the Underaged Seeker" and "Pagan Approaches to Illness, Grief, and Loss." I felt a couple of the essays spent a little too much time rhapsodizing about the wonders of a particular state (marriage, pregnancy, etc.), which - frankly - kind of annoyed me. But all in all, definitely a collection worth having.

Gus diZerega, Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience
    An interesting book whose stated intent is to help Pagans and Christians to understand each other's philosophies and theologies better, but which seems to function mainly as a Pagan apologetic. Perhaps because of this tension between the stated intent and the actual product, the book comes across as quite anti-Christian in a number of places, as it repeatedly offers support for criticisms of Christianity while deflecting criticisms of Paganism. I also found the author's supposition of a unified "Pagan" worldview (across time and cultures) difficult to swallow. Definitely worth reading, in particular for its articulation of Pagan philosophy and theology; but does not live up to its stated intent.

Patrick Dunn, Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age
    An in-depth exploration of the concept of magic as communication. The author describes how reality is a collection of symbols, and magic is the art of manipulating those symbols. The author clearly knows his linguistic and cultural theory, and presents relevant ideas in relatively jargon-free form, which I appreciated. At times, though, he seemed to contradict himself, as when he states that it's a "mistake" to use symbol systems created in other cultures, yet constantly mentions his own use of Buddhist, Hindu, and other cultural symbols. Also, I found that at times he gave references almost obsessively (e.g. the legend of King Arthur) while at other times he did not reference things whose sources were less obvious. I did particularly like the author's description of "magic as language", his suggestions for creating your own symbolic system, and his unwillingness to pin down why or how magic works. This was a thought-provoking and useful book, to which I'm sure I will return many times.

James Endredy, Earthwalks For Body and Spirit: Exercises to Restore Our Sacred Bond with the Earth
    This book presents a series of seemingly simple spiritual exercises to be done while walking. Although I haven't yet begun to try the exercises, I have the sense that they will provide a very meaningful focus for walking and spending time outdoors, and increase the ability to sense energy. Many of the concepts introduced in this book (energy, the Elements, and so on) will not be new to Pagans, but the exercises will be useful. I admit to having been somewhat skeptical at first about the author's constant references to the spiritually enlightened indigenous Mexican groups from whom he says he learned many of his spiritual practices, but happily I found that the walking exercises remained the core of the book. Interesting suggestions for an Earth-based spiritual practice.

Dion Fortune, Psychic Self-Defense
     The author was a well-known occultist (and a Christian; she uses the term "witch" pejoratively). This book (published in 1930) is not intended for beginners, and many of the terms and concepts used in this book will be confusing for those without at least a basic knowledge of ceremonial magick. It's a very interesting read, including Fortune's theories about how magick works (and how it relates to psychology), her stories about experiences of psychic attacks, and some practical methods to deal with it. At times she takes a very common-sense approach (I enjoyed her example of a case of alleged possession which turned out to be a case of constipation!). However, at other times she expounds on bizarre or unlikely theories which she presents as scientifically based facts; and from her descriptions of magickal workings, you would think that all occultists spend all their time fighting each other on the astral plane! Despite these shortcomings, it's a very interesting book and informative on many counts. Definitely worth reading.

Judy Harrow, Wicca Covens
    A really good look at group work from an elder who has been a High Priestess for many years. The author's perspective is oriented toward covens with a definite teacher/student set-up (since that's her tradition) but most of her observations are useful for any pagan group, whether coven or circle, hierarchical or not. As a counselor, she introduces important theories about group dynamics, group work, and psychology which are vital to understanding how pagan covens and circles work. This book is beautifully written, both passionate and down-to-earth. I can't say enough good things about it. Highly recommended.

Judy Harrow, Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide
    This book provides an in-depth, well-informed examination of the dynamics (both personal and social) of spiritual seeking in a Pagan context. Judy Harrow is a really gifted writer with a lot of knowledge to share. I highly recommend this book, whether or not you think you are going to be teaching or mentoring others - it really gives an invaluable exploration of how people cope with spiritual awakening and what things are helpful in this process.

Joyce and River Higginbotham, Pagan Spirituality: A Guide to Personal Transformation
    Don't let the bland title and generic cover fool you - this is no Paganism 101 book. The authors give a detailed presentation of various theories of personal (and cultural) spiritual development, which they synthesize in a very sensible way and apply to modern Paganism. They describe how each of these developmental stages are present in Paganism today, in both healthy and unhealthy ways. They go on to explore how you might see these developmental stages in individuals. They also give an in-depth examination of how Pagan spiritual practices fit in with models of spiritual growth. Lots of meditations and discussion questions. I don't know if I agree with everything in the book, but I'm looking forward to wrestling with some of the interesting issues presented. This book would be especially useful for teachers and group leaders.

Raven Kaldera and Tannin Schwartzstein, The Urban Primitive: Paganism in the Concrete Jungle
    An excellent beyond-the-basics manual for urban pagans; many of the topics covered are relevant for folks who live in suburban areas or mid-size towns as well. Includes information on urban energy work, magickal protection and hygiene; the Urban Triple Deities; spells for travelling, job-finding, and apartment-finding; urban totem animals; junkyard magick; and more. Creative, straightforward, and well written.

Gareth Knight, Occult Exercises and Practices: Gateways to the Four Worlds of Occultism
    This book is small but refreshingly free of "filler" and full of actual content. Written from a (non-Pagan) Western ritual magic perspective, it offers physical, "astral," mental, and spiritual exercises to develop the skills needed for magical work. I did find that the book does not adequately identify the source of most of these exercises. However, it is a great collection of simple and powerful magical exercises.

Christopher Penczak, The Witch's Shield: Protection Magick and Psychic Self-Defense
    A nice overview of protection techniques. The author also gives good suggestions on "psychic hygiene" and ways to protect yourself through prevention. He also offers a nice exploration of ethics. I thought some techniques could have been explored a little more in depth (e.g. more specific information, more examples of how to use the technique). Also, I would have appreciated some discusion about how to differentiate the experience of mental illness from the experience of psychic attack. As a side note, the book comes with a CD of the author reading protection meditations, which I think is a nice touch.

Reclaiming Collective, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
    Pagans often give lip service to the idea that death is natural and part of the cycle of life; finally a group of people has actually taken the time to explore the implications of that belief and the ways in which it works in concrete terms. Poems, songs, stories, exercises, and practical advice.

Ceisiwr Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer
    Just what the title indicates. Bound in a small green edition with a lovely, simple cover, this book begins by offering useful suggestions for creating your own prayers. Most of the book consists of a series of short, simple prayers for various occasions. The prayers are fairly uniform in style, so you may want to look through the book first to see if it is a style that appeals to you. I felt the author made too many assumptions about Pagan theology (for example, not all Pagans are polytheists, as he suggests). Still, I enjoyed this book and found the prayers to be well-written and engaging. For those who, like myself, prefer to create their own prayers, the discussion sections will provide helpful food for thought.

Starhawk & Hilary Valentine, The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing, and Action
    This is definitely not a beginner's book (although I'm sure a beginner would glean insight and knowledge from it). A rich compendium of meditations, rituals, and magical exercises from the Reclaiming tradition, centered around the fairy tale of the Twelve Wild Swans. Re-reading this book many years after my initial reading, I was blown away by the depth of the material.

Tammy Sullivan, Pagan Anger Magic: Positive Transformations From Negative Energies
    This beyond-Magic-101 book suggests that your anger can actually be useful for magical purposes, for example by storing it and transforming it into neutral energy which you can use. Includes some interesting, creative meditations and magical workings, as well as a section on deities who can be helpful in anger magic. Downsides: the quality of the writing sometimes creates real problems in understanding what the author is trying to say (e.g. vague or convoluted wording). Although there is a good section on ethics, the author leaves out some important safety considerations (like a vague admonition to "follow safety guidelines" when using gunpowder in potions) and does not always follow through with explaining the magical implications of some of her spells, for example, using a "poppet" to represent a person. Overall: Not perfect, but refreshingly original.

Kylea Taylor, The Ethics of Caring: Honoring the Web of Life in Our Professional Healing Relationships
    A great exploration of ethics for anyone who does healing work involving what Taylor calls "nonordinary states of consciousness." The author gives in-depth descriptions of specific issues that can arise for therapists doing this type of work (as compared to traditional psychotherapy). Although this book isn't specifically written for Pagans, any Pagans who perform shamanic healing, bodywork, spiritual counseling, or ministerial work would find it useful. Its thoughtful, non-dogmatic approach is really empowering and helpful. I would have gotten a lot out of an in-depth case example (more than just the tidbits scattered through the text); but all in all, this is an excellent book.

Kirk White, Adept Circle Magick: A Guide for the Advanced Wiccan Practitioner
    Full disclosure: Kirk is a friend of mine, so this is not necessarily the 100% most unbiased review. That said, this book is definitely worth your while. Highlights include: Discussion of casting circles and creating sacred space in other shapes; exercises in advanced divination; and an in-depth guide to deity invocation, possession, and aspecting. I also enjoyed the section on healing, although I would have liked an acknowledgement of the fact that Kirk's focus on Chinese medicine is not necessarily Wiccan. All in all, this is definitely a good book for advanced practitioners, with a lot of practical suggestions as well as in-depth discussions accompanying the exercises.

Historical Information on (Pre-Wiccan) Paganism and Witchcraft

Owen Davies, Cunning Folk: Popular Magic in English History
    Great description of magic-workers in 17th-19th century England: who they were, what books they read, what charms they used, what services they offered. Very informative.

Jeanne Favret-Saada, Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage (Les mots, la mort, les sorts: La sorcellerie dans le bocage)
    This book gives a detailed ethnographic account of a rural area of France in the 1960's where witchcraft is practiced. It includes a lot of reflection on the role of the ethnographer, as this researcher found that she would not be able to remain a neutral outsider. She remains skeptical about witchcraft, but is not patronizing or dismissive. I very much enjoyed this book and found it fascinating, although I wished it did not focus solely on curses. (The author alludes to healing practices and other types of magic, but she did not investigate these other types, about which I would have liked to hear more.) This book is often cited by anthropologists studying Pagan culture; it also includes some interesting theoretical material on the nature of magic. But be warned: this book is not about shiny happy peasants holding hands and being in tune with nature. We Pagans tend to romanticize folk witchcraft; sometimes it is actually about jealousy, ignorance and superstition.

Ronald Hutton, Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain
    Maypoles are ancient phallic symbols? Samhain is the Celtic New Year? Think again. This book looks at the historical evidence surrounding seasonal ritual practices in the British Isles, starting in early medieval times (but incorporating older material as well). A lot of what you find here will probably surprise you; a good deal of it contradicts (or at least shows that there is little evidence to support) popular Pagan understandings of the history of our Sabbats. This book also provides interesting information about seasonal rituals that were practiced by British people historically, and how these rituals changed over time. Somewhat dry, but important information to have.

Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe
    An interesting historical overview of what ancient European Pagan religions were like, and how they were overtaken by Christianity (and Islam). I appreciated the inclusion of Eastern Europe, a topic I don't know much about. Although I'm not a historical expert on any of these periods, I had the sense that the authors were over-generalizing at times, particularly by describing Pagan civilizations as more unified and uniform in their practices than they actually were. Also, some good maps would have really improved my ability to understand the geographical descriptions.

Jacob Rabinowitz, The Rotting Goddess: the Origin of the Witch in Classical Antiquity
    An interesting book about the goddess Hekate and the development of the "witch" archetype in Greek and Roman thought. It differs from the feminist interpretations which are common in the pagan community.

Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic
    A fascinating overview of the types of magic that were practiced in 16th and 17th century England, and an analysis of their social functions. It describes a place and era about which many claims are made by today's Witches, and this is a great source to find out what was really going on. It is also a good starting point for those interested in learning more about witchcraft and magic in this historical period, since it is a classic and is often cited by other works. This book was very long and I expected it to be a little dry, but actually found it quite readable. The interested Pagan reader who is short of time or attention may want to skip several sections which are less relevant (notably the sections on Astrology, Omens/Prophecies, and Ghosts).

Richard Weisman, Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in 17th-Century Massachusetts
    An interesting examination of the factors that differentiated the Salem witch trials from pre-Salem witch trials in Massachusetts. Looks at the social tensions that contributed to witchcraft accusations, as well as the conflict between legal and theological approaches to witchcraft.


Scholars of Contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft

Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon
    This is one of the original research works on paganism; in my opinion, every pagan should read this book in order to be well informed about the history of the movement. It is extremely well written and researched; although a little out of date at this point (it was last updated in 1986) it remains very relevant.

Helen A. Berger, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States
    This scholarly analysis of the pagan community is an excellent book, well structured and well written, with a lot of good insights. It looks at interactions between the individual, the small group, and the larger community. Re-reading this book recently, I found myself wishing the author would go deeper into certain topics; but those might have distracted from the topic of the book, which had to do with the structures that form the Pagan community. This book also includes some interesting theories about the relationship between Paganism and postmodernism.

Helen A. Berger, Even A. Leach, & Leigh S. Shaffer, Voices From the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States
    A very interesting compilation of the results from a large survey. The authors are very knowledgeable and asked a lot of interesting questions. However, this is not a representative sample of Pagans, and although the authors acknowledge this in the book, they also seem to lose sight of it in some parts. At times it seemed they were so eager to draw conclusions from the data that they overgeneralized - for example, by describing how Wiccans and Druids have different views on a topic, even though the two groups' answers were only a few percentage points apart, which is definitely not statistically significant given the sample size. Still, definitely worth reading, and there is lots of food for thought here.

M.D. Faber, Modern Witchcraft and Psychoanalysis
    This author's application of psychoanalytic theory to modern witchcraft might be interesting if it weren't for his offensive, condescending, and biased treatment of the subject. He concludes that Witches are all "infantile" and "regressive," based on his twisted psychoanalytic logic. (My favorite part was when he said he believes clairvoyance does exist, but that "we are not dealing with that here. We are dealing, rather, with individuals who go about the world possessed of an exaggerated, narcissistic belief in their own omnipotence." [114]) Possibly worth reading for the entertainment value, but only if you're a quick reader - otherwise don't waste your time.

Susan Greenwood, Magic, Witchcraft, and the Otherworld: An Anthropology
    An excellent analysis of power, gender, and identity among three pagan denominations (high magic, Wicca, and feminist witchcraft). The author makes good use of both research and extensive participant-observation. Highly recommended.

Wendy Griffin (Ed.), Daughters of the Goddess: Studies of Healing, Identity, and Empowerment
    Collection of essays about Goddess spirituality (including Witchcraft). I appreciated the feminist slant of the research but at times felt some writers did not take a critical, challenging approach to problematic aspects of participants' practices. Highlights include: Goddess Spirituality and Women's Recovery from Alcoholism; Reflections on the Patriarchal Cult of Diana, Princess of Wales; and High Priestess: Mother, Leader, Teacher.

Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth
    This book is a description (with some analysis) of the neo-pagan movement, and may not be very useful for those who are already informed. Occasionally the writing style is a little choppy and/or repetitive. Special section on pagan-related fiction.

Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman (Eds.), Paganism Today: Wiccans, Druids, the Goddess and Ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-First Century
    I found that this anthology kind of lacked focus. It has a number of articles which describe different traditions - this is informative but sometimes a little repetitive. There are also critical/ analytical articles, most of which were not in-depth enough for my taste.

Philip Heselton, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration: An Investigation into the Sources of Gardnerian Witchcraft
    This book, written by a British witch, gives a detailed, in-depth picture of the various societies, groups, and individuals that influenced Gerald Gardner. At times it went a little too in-depth for my interest (e.g. giving a detailed biography of a fairly peripheral character) but I definitely admire the extent of the research done by the author! At times I felt the author jumped to conclusions; but he always states his facts and his opinions very clearly, so there's no doubt about which is which. An interesting read for those who want to know more about the man behind Wicca.

Ellen Evert Hopman, People of the Earth
    This is a really excellent presentation of many different viewpoints on paganism. The author interviewed pagans from all sorts of different traditions, perspectives, etc., some of whom will be well known to you and some of which won't. Very interesting!

Lynne Hume, Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia
    A straightforward and sympathetic introduction to paganism from an anthropologist's perspective. Although I enjoyed the author's use of anthropological theory to describe pagan phenomena, I felt the book was a little too descriptive and basic. There is some interesting historical material specifically on the development of paganism in Australia.

Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: a History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft
    An extensive historical account of the British origins of modern pagan witchcraft. Extremely well researched, and engaging (in that dry-British-sense-of-humor kind of way). The author elucidates the truth behind many neo-pagan myths about history, while remaining entirely respectful to (and appreciative of) modern Pagans and Witches. I believe all Pagans should read this book.

James R. Lewis (Ed.), Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft
    Scholarly essays on paganism. The quality of the essays in this book is a little bit uneven (some are quite good; others, not so much).

Tanya Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witch's Craft
    This book takes a look at the British magickal scene from an anthropologist's point of view. The author has a tendency to be condescending, mainly due to her assumptions about the irrationality of magic. But the book is really well researched and thought out.

Sabina Magliocco, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America
    A clear and thoughtful exposition of the cultural themes in Neo-Paganism and the meanings behind Neo-Pagan culture. The author - a folklorist - seems to have more interest in understanding the culture than critiquing it.

Loretta Orion, Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revived
    An interesting and sympathetic analysis of modern paganism. I liked the way the author brought different theories in to examine paganism, but I thought the book was kind of scattered and lacked focus. And at times the author's dual status (as insider and researcher) seemed to interfere with her ability to look critically at the topics.

Sarah M. Pike, Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Paganism and the Search for Community
    A sociological study of pagan practices, primarily focusing on pagan festivals. The author examines topics such as pagan identity in the context of community, pagan narratives, and gender and eroticism at festival fires. Particularly noteworthy is the critical examination of how pagans borrow from other cultures. The author's analysis of all these topics is both sensitive and perceptive.

Jone Salomonsen, Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco
    I found this book a little scattered and difficult to read; at times it was densely theoretical, while at other times it seemed purely descriptive. Her choice to focus on one particular spiritual community is original, as is her examination of what links Reclaiming Witches to traditional Wicca and what separates them from it. Interesting exploration of what it means to have woman-centered religious practices.

Robert J. Wallis, Shamans/ Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies, and Contemporary Pagans
    This is an academic study, though the author is himself a neo-shaman, about issues of culture, validity, and appropriation among neo-shamans. Specifically, the author examines: 1. Celtic and Norse reconstructions of "shamanic" traditions, 2. Pagan/ Shaman interactions with "sacred sites" in Britain, and 3. Neo-shamans' interactions with Native sites and traditions in America. Although this book covers a lot of interesting topics and is certainly worth reading, it seemed very scattered to me - I felt it tried to cover too much ground, and the links between the various topics weren't always clear. Also, I had the impression that it was difficult for the author to integrate observations from his own participation in neo-shamanism, which could have added a great deal to the text (for example, as in Greenwood, listed above).

Christine Wicker, Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America.
    First of all, this journalist's account of "magic" in America is too unfocused. She apparently considers Wicca, hoodoo, vampires, and "otherkin" to be part of the same overall "magical" subculture - an assumption which she never really clarifies, and which I think members of many of these groups would resent. Second, she spends most of her time giving detailed accounts of her interactions with one or two people who, while perhaps personally interesting, really are not representative of the community in question (particularly in the hoodoo chapter). Third, while several reviews and blurbs tout her supposed "respect" for her subjects, I found her tone very flippant and dismissive. It seemed she sought out the most bizarre characters she could find, and then had a field day coming up with glib witticisms about their bizarreness.
    And finally, her section on witchcraft was pretty poor. She only did research in Salem, and did not make any effort to find out whether this was representative of neo-pagan witchcraft in general. She makes almost no attempt to refer to other published sources, either - you would think no one had ever studied neo-pagan witchcraft before. And her conclusion? Well, she got fleeced out of some money by a witch in Salem, so witches must not really be as nice as they say they are. This is journalism? Please! Spare me.

Mythology and Culture

Robert Bly, Iron John: a book about men
    Bly pulls together a lot of myths in an attempt to re-invigorate the concept of masculinity and make it sacred again. I certainly didn't agree with everything in this book. Well, okay, so I didn't agree with much of anything in this book. Bly makes a lot of dubious claims, and his vision of manhood strikes me as reactionary; there's a lot of nostalgia in the book for a lost patriarchy. I did think it was worth reading (if nothing else, in a "know your enemy" kind of way), and he makes some valid points here and there.

Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia; or, How I Found Goddess And What I Did To Her When I Found Her
    This book is so cool. You should read it. It is about chaos, and the goddess Eris, and eating hot dogs without buns on Fridays.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos
    This is an incredible book. It's a scientific book - essentially it tells the story of what we know about how the universe works - but it reads practically like a novel, because of Carl Sagan's amazing writing. His sense of wonder at the way the cosmos fits together is inspiring. This book should be required reading for all pagans.

Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark
    The author talks about the logical extension of her magickal views into the political and social arenas. You may not always agree with her politics, but I found this to be an inspiring vision of community, and she has a lot to say about the way people work together in groups, which is really helpful for anyone doing any kind of group work (magical or non).

Starhawk, Truth or Dare
    Having read Dreaming the Dark first, I found this book a little redundant - it reiterates much of the same philosophy on a somewhat larger scale. It does have some interesting things to say about group organization, political action, diversity, and possibilities for the future.

Luisah Teish, Jambalaya: the natural woman's book of personal charms and practical rituals
    Wow! In this book, Teish weaves several stories together: a memoir of her spiritual life, the history of voudou, descriptions of the orisha (West African/Caribbean deities), and rituals to work magick and honor the orisha. Lovely reading and well-told; an excellent sourcebook for voudou and related practices.

Mark Thompson (Ed.), Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning
    An interesting anthology about gay men's spirituality, much of which is radical faerie-related. It has a very essentialist view of gayness which I'm not sure I agree with, but that's okay, it was still a cool book :)

Henry David Thoreau, Walden
    A very interesting book. I found it rather contradictory at times - for example, he'll go on at length about how all young boys should learn to hunt, and then on the next page discuss how he strongly feels that humans will eventually transcend the eating of meat. But I think this book is relevant, especially if you're a Spartan out-in-the-woods type :)


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